Qualitative cues in the discrimination of affine-transformed minimal patterns

In Enrique Villanueva (ed.), Perception. Ridgeview. pp. 195-206 (1996)
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An important factor in judging whether two retinal images arise from the same object viewed from different positions may be the presence of certain properties or cues that are 'qualitative invariants' with respect to the natural transformations, particularly affine transformations, associated with changes in viewpoint. To test whether observers use certain affine qualitative cues such as concavity, convexity, collinearity, and parallelism of the image elements, a 'same-different' discrimination experiment was carried out with planar patterns that were defined by four points either connected by straight line segments (line patterns) or marked by dots (dot patterns). The first three points of each pattern were generated randomly; the fourth point fell on their diagonal bisector. According to the position of that point, the patterns were concave, triangular (three points being collinear), convex, or parallel sided. In a 'same' trial, an affine transformation was applied to one of two identical patterns; in a 'different' trial, the affine transformation was applied after the point lying on the diagonal bisector was perturbed a short, fixed distance along the bisector, inwards for one pattern and outwards for the other. Observers' ability to discriminate 'same' from 'different' pairs of patterns depended strongly on the position of the fourth, displaced, point: performance varied rapidly when the position of the displaced point was such that the patterns were nearly triangular or nearly parallel sided, consistent with observers using the hypothesised qualitative cues. The experimental data were fitted with a simple probabilistic model of discrimination performance that used a combination of these qualitative cues and a single quantitative cue.



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